As pandemic restrictions ease, it is essential that we embrace this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day – to make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority. This year’s theme highlights the pressing need to allocate time and resources in making sure that the mental health needs of our communities are met as we work together towards socioeconomic recovery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made social and economic inequalities more apparent, as incidents of violence and conflict have persisted alongside other public health concerns that have long plagued communities around the world. Here in the Bangsamoro, many continue to face issues such as food insecurity and gender inequality. These take a toll on one’s mental health as anxieties build in a constant struggle to survive. While discussions about mental health have picked up in recent years, these discussions often reveal deeply-seated biases that subject those who are most in need of mental health services to constant exclusion and discrimination.

If we are to build a better future as we recover from the pandemic, the Bangsamoro regional government must come up with policies and programs that count mental health as a public health priority. As we commemorate World Mental Health Day, we must continue to take concrete steps towards the promotion and protection of the people’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. An inclusive public health system is one that responds to the most urgent and pressing health needs of the people, and this can only be a reality if we can ensure and secure access to quality mental health care and services for all.